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by Tom


Friday, October 24, 2003

Off to a foreign country
Bon weekend, everyone. See you next Friday. No boxing matches while I'm away, okay?

Yet another incidental, isolated case
A lot of comments there two posts below. I have no idea how to start responding (and I've tried) and so I won't. The blog, though, must go on.

The Bunkum Post is at it again: [From an editorial titled "Is it hubris that defines Thaksin?"]

Mr Thaksin propagates the line that any criticism of him is unpatriotic, and any dissent to his views undermines the national interest.

I challenge you, the Bunkum Post, to cite a single instance of Thaksin's propagating such a "line".

I can, however, point to countless cases in which the Post manipulated quotes and distorted facts in order to paint a despotic picture of the PM. The above is one and there are more in the immediately preceding paragraph:

Mr Thaksin arrested dissidents who picketed the Burmese embassy last month, praised the Rangoon military junta for positive steps towards democracy even though it continues to hold Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest,...

The praise came not from Thaksin, but the ASEAN as a whole. How can the Thai PM be singled out and blamed for the spinelessness of an organization whose willingness to uphold the "non-interference" principle at any cost long preceded him? Is Thaksin now so domineering on the ASEAN stage that "L'ASEAN, c'est Thaksin"? (Ooh, his dictatorship isn't just domestic, but regional!) And even supposing that, wouldn't this craven appeasement of the Burmese junta reflect just the opposite of "hubris", which the Post accuses Thaksin of?

If you were smarter (and more logical), the Bunkum Post, you would leave that whole Burma bit out of this "hubris" piece, wait a few of days and then turn around to attack Thaksin for being soft on our western neighbor.

Be careful, though, when debating Burma policies. Some blogger with good memory may point out that the last time Thaksin took a tough stance against the Burmese, the Post's beloved Mr. Chuan seemed even more indignant than the junta itself ("they have honor and dignity").

... attempted to ban all protests during the Apec meetings

Aww, not this canard again! But, ah, it's a little different this time. Thaksin didn't "ban" protests, he merely "attempted" to do so. What kind of dictator can't even affect a "protest ban" (which incidentally had already been lavishly reported by numerous Post stories)? Perhaps Mr. Chuan's "honor and dignity" folk can teach him a thing or two.

For now, though, there's no ban -- not even an attempted one -- just an appeal by Thaksin for people not to protest during that one APEC week (which the Post itself happens to echo, albeit with its familiar spin). Does that impinge on free speech? I don't think so, as people could and did go ahead with their demonstrations. But if you think it does, do answer this: Who are all those protests are aimed at?

The editorial doesn't say, but given that the subject matter is Thaksin's intolerance, it certainly appears as though the PM wants to gag his critics during his showcase event. That, however, can't be further from the truth. The protests are aimed first and foremost at America and its president. Particularly, the protesters originally planned a big rally at the World Trade Center, just across the street from the Grand Hyatt Erawan, where President Bush was staying. That wouldn't have been a way to treat a royal guest (Bush was officially invited for an audience with the King) and, more importantly still, the gathering would've posed an enormous security risk.

And when all is said and done, demonstrations did take place -- not at the WTC, but in other places including the National Police Headquarters -- and with absolute impunity. I wonder if the Post editors are disappointed. Why can't Thaksin be a bit more despotic!?

... banned reporters from asking him questions on politics and NGO protests

Yet another ban! And this time he succeeded! Think about it, a ban on questions! What is it, a year term for each question asked? Apparently, you can scream Thaksin is a US lackey but you can't ask him how he feels.

That's quite strange, to say the least. So let's take a look at how the PM actually issued this ban: [Notice how the Post calls (virtually all anti-US) protesters  "democracy activists". There are many other problems with this story, but I don't have time for them.]

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has forbidden the media from asking questions about politics and the entry ban on foreign NGOs until after the Apec summit.

"Can we agree that from Monday, Oct 13, you will be forbidden from asking about politics or the NGOs?"

Hmmmm, is that a "ban"? If so, it's a rather uncommon sort. Why seek agreement from those will be "forbidden" from doing something? What if the reporters say, "No deal"? Is something lost in the translation?

Let's find out: [from Matchon]

พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณกล่าวว่า ส่วนกลุ่มผู้ชุมนุมชาวไทยก็ขอให้ประท้วงให้ถูกที่ถูกเวลา หากไม่ถูกก็เชิญให้ย้ายที่ แต่อย่าไปสนใจ อย่าให้ความสำคัญ อย่าไปให้ราคามาก ราคาอยู่ที่ประเทศไทยที่วันนี้รัฐบาลจะสร้างให้ประเทศไทยเป็นที่ยอมรับ แต่เรื่องจุกจิกพวกนี้อย่าไปให้ความสำคัญ

"เขียนกันเรื่องอื่นสิ วันนี้ผมพูดตั้งเยอะ มาเขียนทำไมไอ้เรื่องบ้าๆ อย่างนี้ ไอ้เรื่องพวกนี้เขียนไปเสียเวลา นี่เราตกลงกันได้หรือไม่ว่า ตั้งแต่วันจันทร์(13 ตุลาคม)เป็นต้นไป ห้ามถามเรื่องการเมือง เรื่องเอ็นจีโอ ถามแต่เรื่องสร้างสรรค์ได้ไหม เรื่องปรับ ครม.ก็ถามวันที่ 23 ตุลาคม"

Aha! While "ห้าม" does normally mean "forbid" or "forbidden", that interpretation is very much belied by "นี่เราตกลงกันได้หรือไม่" ("Can we make a deal"). Rather, the most accurate translation of this remark (according to meaning instead of letter) would be, "Can we make a deal that from Monday, October 13, you won't ask [me] about politics and NGOs". A minor discrepancy perhaps, but it does make the "ban" talk that so much more far-fetched.

And we haven't even gotten to the context: [translated from the above citation]

Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin said that Thai demonstrators are asked to protest at the right place at the right time; if not [at the right place] then please move; but don't pay attention to them, don't give them significance, don't give them so much price [weight]; the price [significance] is Thailand which the government will today build into a Thailand that is reputable; don't give significance to these trivial things.

"Write about other things. I've said a lot today. Why write about such crazy stuff? To write these things are a waste of time. Can we make a deal that from Monday, October 13, you won't ask [me] about politics and NGOs? Can you ask only constructive things? About the cabinet reshuffle, [you can] ask on October 23."

Rather irritable there, isn't he? Right before the most high-profile political gathering Thailand has ever hosted, the man is clearly under enormous strain and instead of cutting him some slack the Bunkum Post distorted one exasperated remark into a "ban", which, according to my dictionary, means "legal prohibition : official interdict". Gee, you are really running out of issues, aren't you?

[Continuing with the editorial]

...and accused his critics of harbouring personal jealousies against him and damaging the national interest through their criticisms at a time he is playing host to the Apec summit.

I'm not sure where this is coming from and after all we've been through, I certainly wouldn't take it at face value. But in the highly unlikely case that every word is true and precise, BIG DEAL! This prime minister has been called "Hitler sans mustache" by his critics, and the Bunkum Post is faulting him for hitting back with "jealousies" and "damaging national interest"? It truly baffles me that you're so desperately in lack of ammunition and yet keep attacking regardless.

Writing all this, I'm flabbergasted. It's all very incredible -- and highly disturbing.

Let me end this post with a quote from someone who thinks I'm obsessively attacking the Bangkok Post in search of publicity:

The old rules still apply - by which I mean, write unreasonable nonsense and expect a reaction. Not necessarily from the victim concerned, but from readers, who find such blatant unfairness objectionable. It offends our basic sense of justice.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Dateline Bunkum
Matichon "excerpts" Nation TV's interview with President Bush:

[Q:] ไปเมืองไทยจะเจอเอ็นจีโอและทางการไทยอาจจะจับกุมผู้ประท้วง

[A:] สังคมไทยเป็นสังคมที่นาชื่นชมที่ใหคนไทยมีสิทธิแสดงออกในความคิดเห็นของตัวเองได้ ข้าพเจ้ายอมรับว่าคนในโลกอาจไม่เห็นด้วยกับอเมริกา แต่สังคมควรให้สิทธิประชาชนแสดงความเห็นด้วยและไม่เห็นด้วย สังคมไหนที่ให้ประชาชนแสดงความเห็นเช่นเอ็นจีโอไทย สังคมนั้นน่าชื่นชม

แต่ที่ว่าจะมาขู่จับ(เอ็นจีโอ)นั้น ข้าพเจ้าไม่เห็นด้วย การประท้วงก็เป็นเรื่องปกติ และร้ดีว่าจะมีคนมาประท้วงข้าพเจ้า เป็นเรื่องปกติ ไปที่ไหนก็มีคนมาประท้วง อย่างไรก็ตาม มั่นใจว่าทางการไทยจะให้ความปลอดภัยกับผู้นำประเทศเอเปคได้เป็นอย่างดี

[Q:] [When you] go to Thailand, [you] may face [protests by] NGOs and the Thai authorities may arrest the protesters

[A:] The Thai society is an admirable society because [it] lets the Thai people to have the right [freedom] to express their own opinions. I admit that there are people in the world who may disagree with America, but the society should grant citizens right to express agreement and disagreement. A society that lets citizens express opinions like [those of?] Thai NGOs, is an admirable society.

But as to the issue of threatening to arrest (NGOs), I disagree. Pretests are normal and [I] know that there will be people who will come protest me. That's normal. Wherever [I] go, there are people protesting. Nevertheless [I] am confident that the Thai authorities will be fully capable of providing safety for the Apec leaders. [emphasis added]

And here's from the official transcript:

Q You may admire, Thaksin, the Prime Minister, for being supportive of the anti-terror campaign. But there are people in Thailand who are not happy with that, against the war in Iraq and, again, your policy of preemption. And there are people who plan to stage a demonstration to demand that you be arrested during your visit in Bangkok. How do you respond to these critics?

THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) Well, I'm -- first of all, a society which allows for people to express themselves is the kind of society I admire. I don't expect everybody to agree with my policies. And I appreciate the fact that they are able to express themselves. I'm not so sure I agree with their desire to have me arrested.

Look, some people disagree with my decision to take action against a thug who had been torturing his own people -- we've discovered mass graves with hundreds of people that had been buried there, but it's also a man who used chemical weapons. And the United Nations -- I didn't act alone. The critics must understand that I was acting in concert with the U.N., who for 10 years -- which for years had said, disarm. And, finally, I went to the U.N. and said, wait a minute, this is time to -- let's take care of this man one way or the other, and give him a chance to disarm. And he didn't. So I said -- there ought to be serious consequences for not disarming and we acted.

I'm going to tell you something, people have got to understand I'm ont going to forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. These are cold-blooded killers that received their support from different governments, and this nation will act to protect our people. And just like I hope the people of Thailand would expect the Prime Minister to act to protect the people in Thailand. [emphasis added]

I nominate this for Dateline Bunkum of the Year.

[Previous Dateline Bunkum]

Dear Reader
This blog has been enjoying an encouraging amount of regular visitors recently. Thank you all very much.

It's a pity, however, that not many people... okay, only one person (good Michael of St. Louise) takes advantage of the Email Tom link and the comment feature provided below each post.

Make no mistake, this is by no means a desperate attempt to get mails and comments. No, no, not at all. Who, me? Never!

It's just that I want to hear from you. And quite desperately.

Anyway, whether or not you choose to let your voice be heard, DO pass the word around about this blog. That's a Thaksin-like order, okay?

Err, in view of the post below, I take the "Thaksin-like" bit back.

Thanks again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Figuratively speaking
On the eve of APEC, the Bunkum Post, like Thaksin, urged against staging protests during the summit week, but not without taking a swipe at the PM:

Mr Thaksin, probably unwittingly, caused some to reconsider the decision to leave Apec alone. He decreed there should be no protests during the week of the summit. [emphasis added]

Yet another decree? Ah, wouldn't that be swell for the Bunkum Post? An "All Protesters Behind Bars" decree would fit so nicely with the "protest ban" stories that the paper's been trumpeting and ultimately Thaksin's despotic image that it tries to paint.

Too bad the truth, as usual, gets in the way. Neither executive nor legislative power has been exercised to violate the Thai people's constitutional freedom of expression.

(There are moves, however, to keep foreign protesters from entering the country during the time. What can I say, the world is nuanced. The problem is that a lot of people, including obviously the Post, refuse to concede that much.)

Then again, the word "decree" has such an nice dictatorial ring to it that any smear artist would be foolish to pass up. So why not, say, use it figuratively then? After all, the typical Bunkum Post reader can be counted on to swallow it without inquiring what it actually describes. (He may even take it literally, which is so much better as far as the Post is concerned.)

Thank Heaven my readers aren't so dopey. Here's a look at the origin of this whole "no protest" thing: [from Matichon, Oct 3, 2003]

"แต่มีเอ็นจีโอที่รับเงินมาจากต่างประเทศจะเป็นเครือข่ายทั่วโลกที่ต้องการแสดงการประท้วงให้เห็นเช่น ในการประชุมองค์การการค้าโลกที่เม็กซิโกเมื่อไม่นานนี้ เพราะฉะนั้นในช่วงการประชุมเอเปคจึงเป็นช่วงที่เอ็นจีโอกลุ่มหนึ่งที่เป็นส่วนน้อยต้องการแสดงผลงาน จึงขอร้องคนไทยอย่าไปตกเป็นเครื่องมือ" พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณกล่าว

ผู้สื่อข่าวถามว่า นายกรัฐมนตรีได้มีการขอร้องไปแล้ว แต่ท่าทีของเอ็นจีโอยังไม่ยอมอ่อนข้อจะดำเนินการอย่างไร พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณกล่าวว่า "ถ้าจะแสดงสิทธิก็ได้ ถ้าจะทำตอนนี้ให้รู้ว่าต่อไปนี้ความร่วมมือจะเป็นอย่างไร ถ้าพูดแล้วไม่รู้เรื่องก็ไม่รู้เรื่องกันเลยต่อไป ผมเป็นคนง่ายๆ ถ้าพูดรู้เรื่องอะไรก็ได้ แต่ถ้าพูดไม่รู้เรื่องอะไรก็จะไม่ได้ เมื่อคุณจะแสดงสิทธิก็ไม่ว่ากัน" พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณกล่าว

เมื่อถามว่า มีการคาดโทษว่าจะเริ่มขึ้นบัญชีดำสำหรับกลุ่มบุคคลที่มาชุมนุมประท้วงจะเริ่มเมื่อไหร่ นายกรัฐมนตรีกล่าวว่า ไม่ได้ขึ้นบัญชีดำแต่เป็นคนจำแม่น...

"เราต้องคำนึงถึงความเป็นประเทศและเอาชาติเป็นที่ตั้ง พร้อมใจกันเป็นเจ้าภาพ เพราะกว่าจะจัดประชุมได้ใช้เวลานานกว่า 20 ปี ยอมรับว่ามันแพงมากอย่าปล่อยโอกาสนี้ให้สูญไป ผมไม่ได้พูดในฐานะที่เป็นนายกรัฐมนตรี แต่พูดในฐานะคนไทยที่อยากจะขอร้องทุกคน" นายกรัฐมนตรีกล่าว

"But there are foreign-funded NGOs that have a global network and that want to stage protests for publicity, like in the recent WTO meeting. Therefore, the APEC summit is when a group of NGOs, which are a minority, want to show off their work. And so I beg the Thai people not to be used [by the NGOs]," Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin* said.

The reporter asked that, [if] the PM has already made the appeal, but the NGOs still wouldn't yield, what actions will [the government] take? Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin said, "If [the NGOs] want to exercise their rights, then go ahead. But if [they] do that now, then let it be known of [the status of] our cooperation from now on. I'm an easy guy. If [we] can talk and listen to each other, then anything goes. But if [we] cannot talk and listen to each other, then nothing goes. If you [the NGOs] just want to exercise your rights then I have nothing more to say.

When asked when the speculated blacklisting of protesters will start, the Prime Minister said, there's no blacklisting, but [I] have good memory. . .

"We have to consider first and foremost [the prestige of ] the nation [and] unite in being a [good] host because it [will be] 20 years [before] we can host this meeting [again]. I admit that it'll cost us dear to waste this opportunity. I'm not speaking as the Prime Minister, but as a Thai who wants to beg everybody [for cooperation]," the Prime Minister said.

[emphasis added and Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin is Prime Minister Thaksin]

What a way to "decree"! Gee, it even involves some violent begging!

Impartial readers, however, would agree with me that the PM's words can be better described as "appealing for voluntary protest suspension" during APEC than "decreeing a protest ban".

Sure, he did threaten future non-cooperation with those who ignore his plea. But is that so bad? Since when is it the prime minister's duty to cooperate with the unelected, unregulated NGOs? Indeed if, Heaven forbid, Thaksin ever got too chummy with those NGOs whose sole purposes are to hinder trades, obstruct developments, and bring down global capitalism, I'd be out on the street protesting him. With rocks in hand!

And it looks like the "decree" and the "ban" were totally ignored. But, oh no, some 3,000 protesters were "BARRED" from traveling to Bangkok! How so? They told the buses not to take them? Hmmm, that's "barred"? Maybe, and who's your source, my dear reporter? The protesters themselves? Of course, that makes a lot of sense.

Incidentally, the placard behind the skeleton reads "APEC: the group of vampires sucking the poor's blood". We Thais have such a gift for figurative language, don't we?

An apple a day keeps the extremists away
In the post below, you read about Kobsak Chutikul, vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, now meet Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the counterpart committee in the Senate, who opined: [from Matichon]

"ในห้างสรรพสินค้าตอนนี้ก็เต็มไปด้วยสินค้าจากจีน เพราะไอ้พวกดัดจริตกินแต่แอปเปิ้ล ชอบโกรกผมสีทองนั่นแหละ"

"The malls are full of products from China. That's thanks to those affected wretches who're always eating apples [and] dying their hair blond."

Now didn't I tell you MP Kobsak is relatively enlightened?

Senator Kraisak usually fashions himself as a hippy/NGO type, but his outburst there does seem more Pat Buchanan than Ralph Nader. Or does it? Oh well, who can tell the difference between the hard Left and the extreme Right these days?

Anyway, as you can probably guess, Kraisak is a fervent critic of free trade, the terrorism law, Thai troops in Iraq and, naturally, the Thaksin government.

Like I always say, Thaksin has all the right enemies.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Very funny
Kim Jong-il is a CIA agent, Bush wants to deploy Vietcong in Iraq and Goh Chok Tong will be in Bush's 2004 cabinet lineup. No, I haven't gone bonkers. Those are just highlights from an attempt at humor by the vice chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (and former Foreign Ministry spokesperson).

Who would publish that stuff? Well, who else?

And here's the truly scary thing. Kobsak's actually one of the more enlightened Thais around when it comes to international affairs.

APEC Channel

Can't blog, watching. (The gala dinner's just finished and the Royal Barge ceremony's coming up!)

Update The ceremony looked just like in the ad, except that the barges were traveling in the opposite direction. Oh, and of course the Peruvians took the Brits' place in that exclusive audience.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Seeing is believing

The "APEC+1-1" post (three posts below) has been updated to include scanned images of the faulty advertisement.

So now there's no excuse for you guys not to hunker down and try to figure out which country's flag is missing. Quick, there's a prize for the first one to post the right answer in the comment box.

For more  B , please see the archives.


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